Shinji Higuchi is a talented anime’ & SPFX artist who began his career with giant Japanese monsters as an uncredited assistant in Godzilla 1985. He’d later prove himself a master at his profession in the Gamera trilogy as well as a host of other projects before finally returning to Godzilla in 2014. After the success of Legendary’s Godzilla a contractual loophole meant TOHO Studios had a small window to legally create another film with their prized monster. Higuchi would helm the new Shin Godzilla’s design as well as the films SPFX, garnering him the Japanese equivalent of an Academy Award. Shin Godzilla (Godzilla Resurgence) would prove a critical and box office success in Japan while receiving mixed reactions from Godzilla fans in the United States. Higuchi was the guest of honor at G-FEST XXIV where he participated in an interview panel that Saturday. The following photos and narrative were taken from that event…
Artists Alley is an entire room at G-FEST dedicated to selling original works created by some incredible talents. My son, Luke, and I both commented how much its evolved over the years, going from a handful of artists to filling out an old restaurant at the Crowne Plaza. Since my other son, Alex, was in the military I wanted to pick up a print for his apartment. I had no idea how tough it would be settling on just one! I picked up a Shin Godzilla drawing done by Eric Schuster who was happy to also sign it for him.
On the morning of Saturday July 15th, my son, Luke, and I arrived at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont, Illinois wondering what to do first. This was the 24th G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) and my 15th. For me, it’s never been just a convention but more a family tradition. Luke’s been to just about every one since he was born (he’s 13 now) and my four kids together have participated in every G-FEST activity imaginable. We’ve submitted models, participated in the costume contest, Luke won first place in the video game room last year and Alex (my eldest) got the blue ribbon in a Kaiju poetry contest when he was six. My kids and I were so entwined with G-FEST that it was actually painful covering it for this site during the years Alex had outgrown Godzilla, as indicative of the three-hanky sob-fest I posted HERE. Apparently my kids, themselves, weren’t immune to it either. My daughter, Jade, who was more or less dragged to these events growing up said that when she saw the end credit scene of Skull Island (where the existence of Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Mothra were revealed) she was flooded with nostalgia over G-FEST.
How do I love thee, Godzilla? Let me count the ways…
For a monster-loving kid like me growing up in the ‘70s, giant Japanese monsters represented the pinnacle of entertainment. Those glorious films were just about the only thing worth staying inside for back at a time when kids actually wanted to be outdoors. Of all the notable behemoths to have ever graced the silver screen, there were none I revered more than the “King of Monsters” himself, Godzilla. The moment his iconic roar filled my living room I’d be transfixed, especially if he was up against my second favorite kaiju, King Ghidorah (sorry, Gamera, but you were a distant third). Back then it never occurred to me that I was cheering on a guy in a costume as I’d fully embraced the idea of giant monsters roaming the earth and Japan just happening to be the only ones “lucky” enough to see them. Adolescence ushered in the grim reality about “men in rubber suits” and it wouldn’t be until years later that I’d gain a true appreciation for them. The reality is, these folks gave rubber-suited monsters an edge in the personality department that many of the stop-motion ones lacked. This was especially true for those played by the quintessential suit actor himself, Harou Nakajima. Nakajima has the distinction of playing the original Rodan, one of the Gargantuas (which I did a retro piece on last year), and Godzilla from 1954-1972 among others. Needless to say, when I learned that the eighty-eight-year-old legend would be attending Days of the Dead’s 2017 Indianapolis show, I knew I had to be there!
Quentin Tarantino called it the “perfect giant monster movie,” Tim Burton sites it as one of his all-time favorite films, and Brad Pitt recalled at an Academy Awards Ceremony it being the first movie he ever remembers seeing. Sometimes referred to as TOHO Studio’s “Kane and Abel” story, the beast vs beast opus I’m referring to is none other than War of the Gargantuas or, as it was referred to in its native Japan, Furankenshutain no kaiju: Sanda tai Gaira. If that title conjures up images of a certain classic Universal monster, that’s no accident. This movie began as a direct sequel to TOHO’s Frankenstein Conquers the World before taking on a persona of its own. In July of 2016, exactly fifty years from its release, fans at G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) in Chicago paid homage to this often overlooked giant monster masterpiece and I wanted to share some of those highlights.
Check out the amazing monster models of G-FEST XXIII!